Our History

The First 10 Years By Nick McHardy

This booklet has been written to mark the first 10 years of a small golf club in rural Ireland. Blessington Lakes Golf Club in County Wicklow, known as Boystown Golf Club until 2009, was established by a group of enthusiastic golfers to provide enjoyable and inexpensive golf for players to enjoy the game itself, without the trappings and elite image often associated with more traditional golf clubs. We believe that we have achieved this objective. We have a thriving membership, a comfortable clubhouse and a fine golf course whose greens are comparable to the best in Ireland.

Blessington Lakes is recognised as a giant-killer in men’s and ladies’ inter-club competitions at all levels, but the heart of the club lies in its own weekly competitions, formal and informal, and as a venue for visiting players from all over Ireland, and beyond.

“Believe me, there are many so-called A-list golf courses (you know the ones, they consider themselves a shoe-in to any Top 10 Irish Courses list) who would give any amount of money to have the vista that blesses this course. But, in this case, the Almighty Himself helped out with the course design, it seems.”

Tee Box Ireland, autumn 2008

Boystown, County Wicklow, 1996 – spectacular views of the Blessington Lakes and the Wicklow mountains, population a few dozen, no church, no shop, no pub and no golf course. But it did have a golfer and that golfer had a dream and almost a hundred acres of farmland. The golfer was Donie McEvoy and the hundred acres was soon to become Boystown Golf Course, the home of Boystown Golf Club, which became Blessington Lakes Golf Club in 2009. 

Donie’s father, Donal, had farmed the land for many years and the boy Donie had walked over it almost daily, hitting golf balls and imagining how it might be laid out as a golf course. He would use the natural contours of the land, thread the fairways between the many handsome trees and hedges, use the natural drainage lines that his father had worked so hard to develop, and undertake a minimum of excavation to install the greens, tee-boxes and a few strategically-placed ponds. Fairways would be generous, greens would be large and bunkers few. Donie envisaged an interesting and challenging – but not overly difficult course, fully exploiting the magnificent views of the mountains and lakes. The old sand quarry at the far end of the farm would be incorporated into the second hole – the signature hole of the course, and the ninth, a very long par-five. 

Donie’s wife, Betty, didn’t fully share his vision, but at least his golfing and dreaming got him out of the house for much of the time. In any case, she was reasonably sure that sheep would continue to graze safely on the McEvoy acres for the foreseeable future ….. 

Construction of Boystown Golf Course began in mid-May 1995. Bill Butler was engaged to build the tees and the greens, excavate bunkers and lakes and lay the additional drains made necessary by this construction and excavation work. Hedges were cropped to open up the fairways and more than 200 trees were planted, mostly to ‘shape’ the fairways but also to enhance further the beauty of the course. 

Boystown Golf Course opened on a ‘pay and play’ basis in mid-1996, to give the area’s golfers an early look at the new course. It was shorter than the one we know now, with four par-3 holes, no lakes and temporary greens. The final layout of the course was completed in mid-1997, apart from excavation of the lakes. These were completed in 1998. 

Membership of the course was opened in August 1998 and the first formal competition, an 18-hole Stableford, took place on xx xxx 1998 with xx entries. It was won by Xxxx Xxxx, with yy stableford points. The clubhouse was a forty-foot Portacabin with changing rooms but no showers, a small office and a lounge with modest catering facilities (a kettle and a microwave oven) that quickly became the social centre of the course. 

The number of members increased steadily. Among the early arrivals were Martin O’Connor, Jimmy Fitzpatrick, Liam O’Connor, Pat O’Connor and Seamus Kelly. Soon a proposal was made to establish Boystown Golf Club at the course, to be run and financed by the members. The idea was accepted enthusiastically by the golfers and by the McEvoy family, who would continue to own, manage and improve the course. Boystown Golf Club was formally established on xx xxx, 1999. Its principal elected officers were :- 

President : Mr Donal McEvoy
Captain :
Vice-captain :
Secretary :
Treasurer :

An early milestone was the establishment of the course record, 74 shots, by Donie McEvoy. This score was not equalled until 2003.

Boystown GC began to develop and to move forward strongly in the year 2000.  Course construction was completed, including the various water hazards. The greens matured well and the new trees were growing strongly.  Already, it was clear that it would become a fine course.  Membership continued to increase and there were some notable performances in inter-club competitions.  Membership came from a wide area, mostly from South Dublin and North Wicklow, though surprisingly few came from around Blessington.  Perhaps because we had no clubhouse, the membership comprised keen weekend golfers of varying standards with few of the lounge lizards that characterised most golf clubs at this time.  The club continued predominantly to attract regular playing members, even after the impressive new clubhouse was completed in  2002. 

Minutes of Committee Meetings up to April 2000 have been mislaid, but recollections from Club members, a few photographs and names on trophies show that the club was beginning to forge its identity and to gain recognition as a growing force in the golf scene of Leinster.  [If anyone knows where the missing minutes are, please return them to the Club office].  

New members were joining Boystown at about 10 per month throughout 2000.  Players in the Sunday club competitions simply turned up and teed-off as the first tee became free.  From April, however, a starting sheet was introduced and a draw for playing partners was made.  This procedure was introduced primarily to bring order to an increasingly confused situation, but also to enable new members to meet longer-standing members.

Junior competitions were introduced for the first time in the summer of 2001, organised by Bill Hendrick.  Junior numbers were modest but the encouragement of young players was seen as an important part of the club’s development.

Captain : Pat Flynn
Golfer of the Year : Mick Patterson
Captain’s Prize : John Dunne
President’s Prize : Ben Cullen
Matchplay Champion : Philip Wardick

Membership passed 300 in 2001 – 20 joined in March and 21 in June.  It was agreed, therefore, to limit membership to 340 to avoid over-crowding on the course, particularly on Sundays.  It was suggested that the club might “twin” with a club in UK with a view to holding reciprocal competitions at the two clubs.  This idea was not progressed, but it does illustrate the increasing confidence at Boystown.

The biggest event in 2001 was the opening of the new clubhouse.  Overlooking the 1st tee and the 9th green, it included a large comfortable lounge, a functions room, kitchen, changing and shower rooms and a Club office.  The car park was metalled and extended to accommodate 80 cars.  There was some sadness at leaving the cosiness of the temporary accommodation in the Portakabin, but its continued presence beside the new clubhouse would serve, for several more years, as a reminder of the Club’s humble but friendly origins.

The year’s greatest success on the course was to reach the finals of the National 9s competition, held on the island of Jersey.  Boystown also reached the quarter-finals of the Best Cup, and won the Wicklow Mountains Cup.

Captain : Alan Cunningham
Golfer of the Year : Graham Cullen
Captain’s Prize :
President’s Prize :
Matchplay Champion :

Boystown GC won The Best Cup in 2002, beating Balbriggan GC in the final.  This was the first major competition success for the club.  The winner’s pennant and a photo of the whole team and its managers adorn the lounge wall and remain a source of comment and pride for the membership.  Sadly, Gerry Anderson, a pivotal member of the team and a founder member of the club, died later that year.  The Gerry Anderson Trophy is contested in a Stableford competition at the club each year in memory of a wonderful man and a fine golfer.  The trophy itself was presented to the club by Gerry’s fellow members of the winning Best Cup team.

In the same year Boystown reached the final of The Provincial Towns Cup, and we won The Garden County Trophy, an early-season warm-up competition for clubs in the Wicklow Mountains area.  The club also had good runs in the Central Towns and Provincial Towns Trophies. Niall O’Connor won the Intermediate Scratch Cup at Westmanstown and Christie Broe won in Roscrea.  

While the club was establishing itself as a significant force in Irish golf, the minutes suggest that member’s discipline was, perhaps, a bit lacking.  Throughout 2002’s Committee minutes there are mentions of the need to reprimand players for failure to turn up for their allotted start times in club competitions and the necessity to remind them to repair pitch marks on the greens.  The management’s sensitivity over the state of the greens reads rather like a first-time mother fretting continually over persistent nappy rash !  In any case, the committee was notified of the intention to re-seed the greens with dwarf rye grass to ensure strong growth, and this meant that temporary greens would have to be re-introduced for three months from September.  The re-seeding was a complete success and the greens continue to be praised as among the best in Ireland, particularly early in the season, by members and visiting golfers alike. 

Another recurrent topic was the slow progress towards obtaining a bar licence.  It was recognised that financing a licence would require an increase in membership levies, but this was seen as acceptable.  In fact, a licence was never obtained which, in retrospect, may have been a blessing.  Clubs throughout the country were soon to experience disastrous falls in bar takings as progressively more stringent drink-driving laws came into effect.

Captain : Tony McGinley
Golfer of the Year :
Captain’s Prize :
President’s Prize :
Matchplay Champion :

Boystown GC won no inter-club competitions in 2003.  Their best performance was to reach the quarter-finals of The Best Cup.  However, club competitions attracted large entries and a new system of ‘signing-in’ was introduced.  Players would place their entry fee in an envelope with their name on it and “post” it in a sealed box in the office before playing, and write their entry in the Competitions Record book.  This would simplify the starter’s job and it would allow members to sign-in without difficulty in the rare event that the starter was absent.  This simple system worked well and it is still in operation.

Boystown was the host of its first GUI competition, The Pierce Purcell Trophy, in May.  The GUI inspection prior to the event pronounced the course fit for play, and praised its preparation.  A large number of members helped to prepare the course in the week before the competition and helped during the two-day event, as marshals, ball-spotters and bunker rakers, and many more arrived to watch the play.  Twelve clubs entered the competition.  Sadly, Boystown were knocked out in the strokeplay event on the first day and did not qualify for the matchplay stages.  None-the-less, the occasion was an important step in the club’s development and it gave the club good publicity.  It also underlined the fact that the club’s performance in strokeplay competitions had been consistently poor over the years.  It was resolved, therefore, that one of the club’s competitions each month would be strokeplay, to give members more experience of this highly challenging format.  Improved performances over the following years suggest that the strategy was successful.

In September, Ciaran Curley equalled the course record set by Donie McEvoy in 1999, with a score of 74 strokes.

Captain : Peter McGillan
Golfer of the Year : Jay Curley
Captain’s Prize :
President’s Prize : Donie McEvoy
Matchplay Champion : Jay Curley

Christie Broe was expected to become club Captain for 2006 but he was unable to take up the appointment because of pressure of outside commitments.  Peter McGillan, who was to have been Christie’s vice-captain, therefore moved up to the top position.

Early in the year the club gained a strong group of new members from Vartry Lakes GC, which had closed down.  They included Eddie Kelly, ……and …. who added welcome strength to the club’s teams. 

The April Committee Meeting minutes record the concern of the committee that members of Club teams should all wear club shirts.  The wide variety of shirts in recent matches reflected badly on the image of the club.  This subject continued to cause concern right up until 2010, when stylish new shirts finally found favour with (almost) all team members.  The April minutes also report that €100 was donated to the Community First Responder Team towards the purchase of a “heart de-regulator”.  This, presumably, should have read “defibrillator” !  What made the April Committee Meeting so eventful ?  Perhaps it was the influence of the new Captain.  Anyway, it was also agreed that ‘after match’ meals should be restricted to two courses, not three, to reduce costs and waistlines !

Club teams produced their best overall performances so far.  They reached the final of the Jimmy Bruen Cup and the semi-finals of the Pierce Purcell Trophy and the Brennan Cup and Christie Broe won the Killiney Scratch Cup.  Then, in September, the 18-22 handicapers won the Moore Cup, beating ….. in the final.  However, even this fine performance was out-done by the Ladies, who won the Leinster Section, then the 6-Province final, in the ….. 28+ handicap class of the AA Insurance All Island Challenge Cup.

Jay Curley was Golfer of the Year – the first Junior member (aged 15) to achieve this distinction.  He set a continuing trend of juniors winning major club events and titles.

Captain : Sean Earles
Golfer of the Year : Jack Slattery
Captain’s Prize :
President’s Prize :
Matchplay Champion : Graham Curran

The membership was saddened by the death of Mr Donal McEvoy Snr., the Club President, on 21st March. He was 88. The members formed a guard of honour as the funeral procession passed the golf course, then escorted their President to his final resting place in Baltyboys burial ground.

A number of important improvements to the course and to the running of the club were made in 2007. Firstly, a Team Managers’ Committee was established with a view to consolidating the outstanding performances of 2006. A practice net was constructed and, as part of the continuing course improvements, alternative tee-boxes were opened at two more holes. A weekly 9-hole Re-entry Competition was started, with a view to increasing the use of the course during the week.

A full programme of Junior Competitions, in each of the school holidays, was run for the first time. Kevin Downey and Jimmy McCormack were Junior Champions in the ‘14 years and over’ and ‘up to 14 years’ classes respectively in 2007. Jack Slattery and Jay Curley became regular members of the Club Teams, following improvements in their handicaps from the low 20s to single figures over the past two years. They were the first Juniors to “graduate” in this way, and several more looked likely to follow them in the near future. Jack Slattery was Golfer of the Year.

The weekly Winos social scramble on Thursday evenings through the summer, instituted a few years previously by Eddie and Angela Seery, really took-off and 30 or more members and their guests regularly took part. The 9-hole competitions were followed by cheese and wine with more wine as prizes – hence the name ! Whereas in the early days it was considered ill-mannered to take prizes home, increasingly stringent drink-drive laws now limited intake at the club, and home wine-racks benefited.

Performances in the men’s inter-Club competitions was somewhat disappointing, following the outstanding successes in 2006, but the ladies excelled again, winning the AA Insurance Leinster Section and the All Island Trophy, this time in the 24-28 handicap class.

Captain : Eddie Seery
Golfer of the Year : Jay Curley
Captain’s Prize :
President’s Prize :
Matchplay Champion : Paddy Carthy

In common with practically every Golf Club in the country, membership numbers began to fall significantly as the economic crisis began to bite. We lost relatively few members to other golf clubs – most of the departures appeared simply to have stopped playing golf.

Despite this downturn in membership, improvements to the course accelerated. The programme of providing alternative tees on all nine holes was completed, and smart new teak tee-marker posts were installed. Several fairways were subtly re-shaped and the deep rough was pushed back in strategic places. The many young trees were now growing well. Several were removed to reduce crowding, and a few because they had not established fully. The overall effect was to make the course even more attractive and to play more fairly. The greens, which had always been good, continued to improve to the extent that visiting players frequently commented that they were the best they had played on, particularly in the early part of the season.

The Club received a great publicity boost when the editorial team from ‘Tee Box Ireland’, our best-known free golfing news-sheet, played the course as part of their research for an article on “The Virtues of Nine-hole Golf Courses”. We expected them to enjoy the course, but they were ecstatic about it – its quality, its challenge and fairness for players of all standards and particularly the splendour of the scenery of the area. They even praised the friendliness of the members ! Few courses, anywhere, can have received such an accolade as that printed in Tee Box – “… there are many so-called A-list golf courses who would give any amount of money to have the vista that blesses

Captain : Sean Feely
Golfer of the Year : Jay Curley
Captain’s Prize :
President’s Prize :
Matchplay Champion :

Looking back, changing the club’s name from Boystown to Blessington Lakes GC was a very good move. Over the years it had become clear that golfers as close to us as Naas had little idea of where Boystown was, and those from further away had no idea atall. A straw poll was carried out among members to find whether they would support the idea of changing the club’s name to something more recognisable. The response was almost unanimous in favour of a change. Blessington Lakes GC was, by far, the favourite as our new name. The course would still be known as Boystown golf course, so we would call ourselves “Blessington Lakes GC at Boystown Golf Course”, as necessary to make this clear. The GUI approved the new name, which would officially come into use at the end of the year, although we could use the name informally until then.

Niall O’Connor took over as Club Secretary. The club had been very fortunate in the quality and dedication of its secretaries (and other officers) over the years, but Niall took the position to a new plain. Almost single-handedly, he completely revised the website, renaming it blessingtonlakesgolfclub.com, and transforming it into one of the very best in the country. It came as news to most of the members that the club even had a website, but it now became a focal point of the club’s organisation and the key route to keep the members informed of all that was happening in and around the club. Furthermore, increasing numbers of visiting players and new members cited the website as the reason for their coming to Blessington Lakes GC at Boystown.

The club held the first of a series of very successful fund-raising pub quizzes in the Wicklow Arms Hotel in Blessington and we were among the first clubs in Ireland to introduce PowerPlay golf, a new 9-hole playing format.

The inaugural Maureen Doyle Memorial Trophy was held in July in fond memory of Maureen, who had been a founder member of the club and an indefatigueable committee member and Lady President. Her husband, Mark, presented the club with a magnificent silver trophy which was won by Jamie Tutty, another of the rapidly-emerging junior members.

Meanwhile, course improvements continued. Red 100-yard fairway markers were “planted” and the lower branches of trees along all the fairways were lopped to improve lies. The tall hedges on the 4th, 6th and 7th holes were trimmed and a few large branches were lopped from mature trees on the 5th, 7th and 8th holes to improve “playability”. Surface drainage work around the 3rd and fourth greens eliminated some troublesome boggy areas and the ponds on the 3rd hole were tidied up.

It will be noticed that a large proportion of the club’s ‘major’ competitions in recent years had been won by junior members. To guard against the risk of juniors with rapidly falling handicaps having an unfair advantage over older members with more stable (!) handicaps, a resolution was passed at the AGM that juniors with handicaps above 18 would play off a maximum handicap of 18 in major competitions. The junior members gave their strong support to this resolution – and continued to win anyway !

Several teams had good runs in inter-club competitions in 2009 but the most prominent performance was in the Provincial Towns Cup. The 9-man team reached the final, where they met Cil Dara GC. The final was a two-legged event, the first of them at Boystown. Blessington Lakes took a 5-4 lead to Cil Dara following a tense day of excellent and competitive golf, with two matches going to extra holes. After the nine matches at Cil Dara in the second leg the score was 9-9 ! The tie-breaking format in this competition is a single player three-hole play-off which, sadly, we lost. While, clearly, being beaten in the final was a big disappointment, getting to the final of such a prestigious GUI competition was a great achievement for such a small club. The team resolved to do one better in 2010. Read on ….

Captain : Diarmuid McCarthy
Golfer of the Year :
Captain’s Prize : Mick Nolan
President’s Prize : Jamie Tutty
Matchplay Champion :

This was a great year for the club and it ended with our biggest success so far – so it is worth reading on ! The course, already in fine condition, continued to improve throughout the season, thanks to the dedication of green-keeper Tom Kavanagh, with help from a number of club members on “special projects”. Visiting players, and particularly visiting teams, consistently praised the quality of the course, and described the greens the as among the best they had ever played on, anywhere. The greens were so fast and true for the President’s Prize that they frightened even the lowest handicap players.

A new event, a children’s party, was held in January, with funds raised by the Winos’ evenings of the previous summer. It was an enormous success, with hoards of kids, and featured a late appearance by Santa McEvoy. This will surely become an annual event.

The Captain’s Prize final was played on a spectacularly wet and windy day in July. Despite the dreadful conditions, Mick Nolan won with a cumulative 141 net, shooting a magnificent 67 in the final round to finish one shot ahead of Philip Wardick. Tom Barrett scored a hole-in-one on the 5th, the second of the year, following Jay Curley’s at the 3rd in May. Mick was delighted to receive, as his prize, a watercolour painting of the course by local artist ….. and the Captain, Diarmuid McCarthy, presented the course proprietors, the McEvoy family, with a fine aerial photograph of the course in recognition of their dedicated support of the club over the years.

Paddy Byrne decided to stand down from the Presidency, after four years of outstanding service to the club, and Tony McGinley was elected to the position. His President’s Prize competition, in August, was played in glorious weather with a very large entry. For the first time, it comprised 18 holes stableford from the blue tees, followed by a 9-hole play-off for the top 15 players in the evening. Jamie Tutty, a junior playing off 18, won with 55 points !

The Club Matchplay Tournament had its biggest entry ever – 77 golfers. Matches started in June and the final was played on .. September, between ….. and ….

The Junior Section had a great year too, including coaching in the summer at South County GC, generously provided free by the professional staff there. The benefits of these lessons, particularly among the younger players, were obvious in the summer series of competitions. John Wilson won the low handicap (up to 22) section and Breon Nugent won in the higher handicap group. The 18-hole competition on the final day was won by Sean O’Keeffe with 41 points. P-J O’Keeffe (handicap 17) won the net prize in the Kildare Boys Scratch Cup at Naas GC in July with an outstanding score of 13 under his par, 131 net over 36 holes !

The really big achievements for the club, in this, its 10th full year, came in inter-club competitions. The season didn’t start particularly well, with defeat in the early rounds of several competitions. Then things improved dramatically ! We reached the final of the Jimmy Bruenn Cup in July, but were beaten at the final hole of the play-off by Wicklow GC, and we won the Lisheen Trophy at South County GC. Then came the big one – the Provincial Towns Cup – the one we most wanted to win.

Blessington Lakes became a club to be feared in this competition. We beat, successively, ….., ….., ….., …. In the early rounds and then met Borris in the semi-final. Cil Dara, who had beaten us in the play-off in the final in 2009, were playing County Meath in the other semi-final. Could we have a re-match in this year’s final ? No, because County Meath won easily. Meanwhile, the tension in the semi-final built steadily. By five o’clock it was two matches won, two lost at home. The five matches at Borris started an hour later and by six we had won one, lost two and were down in the remaining two at the 13th hole. Then both matches were level after fifteen. Time passed very, very slowly as we waited for further news from Borris, then Graham Curran won at the 17th, making it 4-4, leaving Philip Wardick to carry the hopes of the whole club. And he did it – winning at the 17th. Blessington Lakes were through to the final, 5-4 !

The first 9-match leg of the final was played at County Meath GC, Trim, on 8th August. We went down 6-3, but lost three matches at the 18th hole, so things were far closer than the result might suggest. Both teams practiced intensely at Blessington Lakes in preparation for the second leg on 22nd August. The County Meath team played 47 practice rounds, the home team even more. Fairways and rough were mown almost daily, bunkers were trimmed and raked regularly, greens were polished and the whole course looked superb.

After nine holes County Meath were ahead in five matches, down in two and two were all square. Then the Blessington Lakes fight-back began. Paddy Carthy, in the first match on the course, won at the 15th and that seemed to be the signal for the whole team to advance. With eight matches completed, the score on the day reached 6-2 to the home team, making the overall score 9-8 to Blessington Lakes, as a result of some superb performances by the whole team, and Darren Tobin was one up after 17 holes in the final match. Could he clinch it, or would it go to another play-off ? A huge and very tense gallery gathered around the 18th green to find out.

Darren hit a fine drive on the 18th, middle of the fairway and beyond the bell, and the County Meath man was not far behind. Both of them hit good second shots and the gallery was silent. With the pin near the centre of the green, the County Meath man’s third shot finished twelve feet above and to the left of the hole and a murmur ran through the gallery as everyone recognised the difficulty of his putt, but what would Darren do from seventy yards down the fairway ? He hit a glorious wedge to ten feet below the pin ! In a slightly anti-climactic ending, County Meath’s putt narrowly missed the hole and gently rolled well past. Darren putted up to the hole and the match was conceded, giving Blessington Lakes the victory, 10-8 !

Boystown Golf Course then saw its first ever pitch invasion as the celebrations of Blessington Lakes GC’s first men’s GUI Championship victory began. The County Meath team and their supporters were commendably generous in their congratulations. The celebrations continued with the presentation of the magnificent Provincial Towns Trophy, food, music and a few drinks until dawn – a fitting climax to ten outstanding years of golf at Boystown : Blessington Lakes.

Blessington Lakes GC has come a long way in 10 years. We have a fine course at Boystown, we have won major inter-club competitions and membership is increasing again, despite the depressing economic situation. What comes next ? Where is the club headed ? Of course, we are determined to build on past successes and to win more inter-club competitions, and subtle improvements will be made to the golf course to make it even more enjoyable. But what else ?

Blessington Lakes GC will always be a relatively small club, in terms of number of members, because of the limitations of its 9-hole format. However, its small size is also a great strength because everyone knows everyone else and new members feel at home here very quickly. The men’s and ladies’ sections work well together and we choose our Captains and Presidents, and indeed all our Committee members, as much for their friendliness and organisational abilities as for their prowess as golfers. We see this as the basis of our strength in the past and we intend to continue to run the club in this way, for the benefit of our members and for visiting players, regardless of their golfing abilities.

We hope that, as golfers in the Blessington area and beyond review their plans for the coming year, they will consider joining Blessington Lakes GC. The club has lost a number of members in recent years, for various reasons, and we hope that many of them will now be able to re-join us. We invite all of you, old friends and new, to join us at Blessington Lakes to take the club into an even more successful future.